44th Pacific Islands Leaders Forum
Majuro, Marshall Islands
Address by the Out-going Chair
Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Hon. Henry Puna
President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, His Excellency Christopher Loeak and Mrs Loeak
Your Excellencies, the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, and your spouses
Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers of Pacific Delegations
Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and your spouse
Distinguished Heads of Delegations from our Post-Forum Dialogue Partners, and CROP Agencies
Diplomatic Corps and all distinguished delegates to the 44th Pacific Islands Leaders Forum
Yokwe (ia-way), Kia Orana, and Greetings to you all
Mr. President, my first call of duty today is to extend to you a special greeting from the people of the Cook Islands, and to convey our collective spirit of love and best wishes to the Government and people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the occasion of you hosting the 44th Pacific Islands Forum.
I know that many Cook Islanders still recall with tremendous fondness, the honour and privilege of being where you are today: the centre of attention and attraction of the whole Pacific while also feeling the adrenaline of excitement at bringing us all together in one magnificent location – your beautiful Islands.
We congratulate you. We salute you. And we honour you for the efforts you have made to welcome us – your colleagues, our spouses, and our delegations.
Kommol tata. Thank you very much.
Secondly, I congratulate you on this year’s chosen theme. Marshalling the Pacific Response to the Climate Challenge stands as a very important reminder of how far we have come and what we must do in the immediate future as a matter of urgency.
There is no doubt – particularly among our low-lying countries – of the severity of the threat of the impacts of Climate Change and the extreme vulnerability of the Small Islands Developing States of our Region.
We commend the President and the Government of the Marshall Islands for this initiative.
I commend you – simply because our theme this year speaks partly to the frustrations we have all felt in past years: of being overlooked, ignored, and undervalued.
Years of inaction on the part of those who are most capable of undertaking effective mitigation measures has understandably left us absolutely disappointed, and dissatisfied.
Mr. President, you have now spoken for the need to ‘marshal the Pacific’s response’ to that which is uppermost on the agenda of the Region’s Leaders today.
And our response to the ‘Climate Challenge’ is indeed a pressing challenge in itself.
It is precisely because of that call, that over the past year, I have worked to promote the principle of the Pacific as Large Ocean Islands States – Island States that must take the lead to redefine themselves and their place in the world, and then project that renewed identity to the rest of the world.
Marshalling the Pacific response builds on that concept appropriately and thrusts the challenge forward – front and centre – as a pressing concern to us all.
I have reinforced this theme:
- by visiting Fiji to deliver an address on the Pacific Plan at the Annual Pacific Leaders Lecture Series at the Forum Secretariat;
- by speaking to our leaders of tomorrow at the University of the Pacific;
- and by addressing the scientific community engaged with the SOPAC Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, in Noumea.
In some small way, I have carried our message to a broader audience with the hope of a new and more optimistic era of what the Pacific can achieve – once it has gained a freer thinking of how to assert itself with a stronger presence.
I’m happy to say today that we, as a Region, have not sat back on our haunches.
We have taken a lead and a very strong one – in a wide range of sectors and fields of concern and collective interest.
The clear establishment of large territorial seas devoted to Marine Park Areas is gaining world-wide attention.
Pacific-wide priorities to follow roadmaps in the conversion of energy use to renewables have taken a firm hold.
Greater demands for effective and sustainable fisheries management have increased the returns to our people.
And a regional blue print that is better-tailored to meet the modern needs of effective cooperation for economic advancement and the sustainable management of resources awaits our support.
These are strengths in a sea of doubt over whether the Pacific will ever get the recognition it deserves – and needs today – to deal with Climate Change: an extremity and vulnerability not of our doing but of our burden to pay. And pay dearly we will.
Redefining who we are with a stronger sense of taking responsibility for what we can do for ourselves must help inform this drive to ‘marshal the Pacific response’.
I believe the constructive building blocks and steps are already with us.
The evidence of our capability has already been produced.
And the political will has already been demonstrated.
Over the past year, the strengthening of sub-regional groups and initiatives has supported the solidifying of our wider Pacific Region.
Despite the detractors who speak of breakaway entities, which erode the whole, stronger, smaller units are proving to be positive components in the strengthening of our Forum family.
I have no doubt that sub-regionalism is complementing our resolve to lift the Pacific Islands Forum and its Secretariat to higher levels of duty, of performance, and yes – of responsiveness: a Pacific response.
Just a few days ago, the Polynesian Leaders Group gave its full support to a more inclusive approach and a cautious but steady pace in building broader cooperative efforts.
I believe the strength of such efforts will continue to be part of our individual respect and contributions to the integrity and sustainability of the Forum.
Therefore, the need for us to work more closely together in the Pacific has never been more important than it is right now.
We have a positive momentum to uphold and as the Outgoing Chair of the Forum, I extend my full support and encouragement to President Christopher Loeak, and his Government, as he embarks on the steps of this next journey in the fulfilment of the aspirations of all our peoples.